For the fourth time in three weeks, Cornell men’s lacrosse will square up against a top-20 opponent when it travels to Philadelphia to take on Penn in search of its first conference win of the year.
The Red (3-3, 0-1 Ivy) is fresh off a tough loss to Yale in its Ivy opener at Schoellkopf Field last weekend.
“We need to execute a bit better,” said interim head coach Peter Milliman. “I thought we did a lot of things in the middle of the field well … But we didn’t execute well enough on offense or defense.”
Meanwhile, the Quakers (5-3, 1-0 Ivy) have won two in a row, most recently against Bucknell in which it edged out a close, 9-8 win over the Bison on Tuesday.
Penn boasts one of the best defenses in the country, allowing a stingy 8.38 goals per game to its opponents.
“We need to move the ball well; we need to be crisp there,” Milliman said. “Handle the ball and minimize our turnovers … [The Quakers] are a tough defense, they’ve got an excellent goalie. They’ve got some big, physical guys on that end of the field. But we need to work within our system, play hard and really execute making sure we’re taking care of the ball.”
The Red’s most valuable weapon on offense is sophomore attack Jeff Teat, who Milliman continues to hail as one of the best offensive players in the country. So far this season, Teat has had some high-scoring games, while at other times, opposing defenses seem to do everything they can to shut him down.
“Everybody is going to challenge us with how they play Jeff,” Milliman said. “They either shut him off, they faceguard him, they slide from him. Everybody’s either doing something differently or just trying to take him out of the game completely.”
According to Milliman, Cornell feels comfortable in its system even without Teat, but the team is most successful when they find ways to get the second-year standout involved in the action — something that is sure to be a challenge against a strong Penn defense.
“At the end of the day I think we feel comfortable that playing teams five-on-five, without Jeff, we can still compete,” Milliman said. “But we don’t really want to play games without one of the best offensive players in the country. So we make sure we get him involved.”
Possession-wise, despite struggling with faceoffs and clears in the early part of its season, the Red was successful on 11 of 12 clear attempts and 17 of 28 faceoffs against the Bulldogs.
“We changed the clear up,” Milliman said. “Probably should have done that weeks ago … but it seemed to make a big difference [against Yale].”
On the draw, sophomore faceoff specialist Paul Rasimowicz was instrumental in helping Cornell win the possession battle against Yale and was responsible for all 17 of the Red’s faceoff wins. Rasimowicz has a chance to continue his upswing against a relatively weak Penn faceoff unit that has won less than 43 percent of its draws.
“The work that Paul has been putting in consistently with our coaching staff has paid off,” Milliman said. “If you take away the first few games, I think the last few weeks have really shown that there’s progress being made [on the faceoff].”
Since the start of the season, Cornell has continued to stress that this year is one in which the team is ready to restore itself as a national and Ivy League powerhouse. Thus far, the Red has been able to hang tough with some of the nation’s best teams, taking two top-10 teams in Yale and No. 1 Albany down to the wire.
“I think we’ve shown that we’re competing,” Milliman said. “[But] my message at the end of the Yale game was that competing is not good enough. Obviously we want to win.”
The Red gets another chance at an Ivy League foe at noon at Penn’s Franklin Field this Saturday.